WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2011 – Haqqani network sanctuaries in Pakistan are a concern that can be overcome in meeting Afghanistan objectives in 2014, a senior International Security Assistance Force commander told Pentagon reporters today.
Speaking via teleconference from Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, said that to do that, U.S. troops will require „a strong, capable, layered defense“ with Afghan security forces to interdict fighters crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
The general said he and his Pakistani counterparts have been working toward a solution.
„We are obviously working with them to determine how best to have an impact inside of that sanctuary,“ he said. „We work very hard on our side to affect them in terms of interdiction, their caches and the movement [across the] border.“
Scaparrotti, who regularly travels throughout Afghanistan, said he seeks to improve Afghan-Pakistani relations by helping to establish common objectives.
„My intent now — I’ve been over to Pakistan — is to improve that relationship and work together where we do have a common enemy,“ he said. „It’s in their interest, it’s in our interest as a coalition and Afghanistan’s interest to get better control of the border that Afghanistan and Pakistan share.“
Insurgents in Pakistan are a threat to Pakistan as much as they are a threat to Afghanistan or the United States, Scaparrotti said. „And those are the kinds of discussions that I have with my military counterparts,“ he added.
The general noted there was frequent communication among coalition, Afghan and Pakistani forces when he was commander of ISAF’s Regional Command East.
„A year ago, it was common, and has been for some time, we would have radio communications cross-border between coalition, Afghan and Pakistan forces who face each other across the border,“ he said. „We would have communications between counterparts at brigade level, counterparts at [regional command] or division level.
„We [also] had quarterly planning conferences where we would compare our planning along the border and perhaps do complementary operations,“ the general added.
Scaparrotti acknowledged that communication between U.S. and Pakistani military forces was no longer „open“ following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
„About May of this past year, after the bin Laden raid, those routine communications just were not available in most cases,“ he said. „We had a difficult time arranging border flag meetings. We had a difficult time arranging communications back and forth.“
Pakistan began to show interest in renewing military-to-military communications with U.S. forces in Afghanistan since „probably about July-August,“ Scaparrotti said.
„And I have made a trip there,“ he added. „We’re attempting to re-establish the communications along the border, particularly between units that are facing each other, Afghan and Pakistan.“
It’s important, he said, „to ensure that, one, we can interdict cross-border movement, but, two, that when there is a conflict … we can react and the Pakistanis can react, without firing upon each other.“
Scaparrotti said his focus will continue to be on Afghanistan.
„I am, as an operational commander, focused on this side of the Afghan border, and [those] operations that I control here,“ he said.
Scaparrotti said he’s pleased with the progress made by Afghan security forces and the momentum they have gained against the insurgents. „My objective is to maintain that momentum, accelerate the development of the [Afghan forces and] push them into the lead,“ he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)